The story of Christmas is the Word became flesh and dwelt among us; Emmanuel, God with us. The Creator of the universe stepped onto the human stage, and shared in the lives of the creatures he created.
Yet, when Jesus robed himself in human flesh, his experience was more than knowing hunger, feeling sleepy, or having indigestion. His walk in our shoes wasn’t just stroll through the mundane episodes of our lives. And it definitely was not simply God parading in human form.
Perhaps one of the most significant ways the reality of Christ sharing our humanity was in his exposure to temptation. While we may tend to minimize Jesus’ battle with temptation, the writer of Hebrews gives us a very revealing look at it by saying Jesus “was tempted in every way, just as we are …” Now think about that for a moment. Jesus knows first hand our struggle with temptation.
Are you ever tempted to indulge your physical needs to the neglect of your spiritual needs?
Do you experience pressure to compromise your moral or ethical standards for a short-cut in fulfilling your life goals?
Does the promise of material possessions or monetary gain have any power to alter your decisions?
Do you battle with stepping across some ethical line to find popularity, acceptance or love?
Secondly, “just as we are” indicates the similarity in manner of our temptation. James 1 says that we are tempted when we are enticed by our own evil desires. It is the enticement of temptation that makes it a devil to deal with. But sometimes we make temptation too easy on Jesus because we make it something he easily, thoughtless brushes aside with a dismissive wave of his hand. But this texts suggests, there had to be some attraction, some allure, to Jesus or it wasn’t temptation.
Further, when Jesus was tempted, he had the capacity to sin. When I was young, I was taught Jesus couldn’t sin because he was God, and “God can’t sin”. But if Jesus could not have sinned, then he was not tempted “just as we are.” In our struggle with temptation, sin is a very real possibility. If Jesus was tempted in every way just like us the capacity to sin had to be a reality. The difference was not in the potential result of sin, but in the actual result of sinlessness. Empathy with the sinner in his trial does not depend on the shared experience of sin, but on the strength of the temptation to sin which only the sinless know in its full intensity.
It is nice to hear that God has not left us alone to battle our temptations or that he understands our struggle … but that is not the best news. The best news is that since Jesus walked through our struggle with temptation and remained sinless, he is able to provide mercy and grace to us when we fall to temptation. When temptation gets the best of us, God gives us the best of his grace because of Christ. Jesus helps us when tempted by sometimes giving us the victory to defeat it, and other times by gracing us when it defeats us.
So this Christmas, as you stroll through the holiday season, remember the one who walked in your shoes. Recall that since he shared your battle with temptation, he is always there ready to help, ready to extend his grace. Then thank him for not leaving you alone.